Africa

African scientists: Homosexuality is natural and African

South Africa’s Mail & Guardian reports on a new Africa-based scientific report that discredits claims that homosexuality is unnatural and un-African. These are excerpts from that article:

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act on Feb. 24, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Ugandan National Academy of Sciences (Unas) has endorsed a report that says homosexuality and gender and sexual diversity are natural phenomena, which contradicts Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s stance that homosexuality is abnormal and should be outlawed. Unas and the Academy of Sciences of South Africa (Assaf) are the only academies of science in Africa to endorse the report. …

The report, entitled Diversity in Human Sexuality: Implications for Policy in Africa and published by Assaf, was formulated by 13 experts to answer whether sexual diversity is unnatural and “unAfrican”, if it can be “corrected”, whether children are at risk from association with homosexuals and if there are benefits to outlawing same-sex sexual acts, among a number of other questions.

The report, based on the latest scientific evidence, found that:

  • Gender identity (what gender a person identifies as), gender expression (how they demonstrate their gender), biological sex (which ranges from female sexual organs through intersex to male sexual organs) and sexual orientation (who a person is physically, spiritually and emotionally attracted to) is part of a continuum and that no positions on this spectrum are “unnatural”.
  • There can be no justifications to “eliminate” lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons from society.
  • Sociobehavioural research shows that people do not feel that they have a choice in their sexuality.
  • Click on the image to download a PDF file of the report "Diversity in Human Sexuality: Implications for Policy in Africa."

    Click on the image to download a PDF file of the report “Diversity in Human Sexuality: Implications for Policy in Africa.”

    Conservative estimates put global prevalence of people who identify as homosexual at 5%, with no evidence that this percentage is any lower in African countries. About 50-million people in Africa – just less than the population of South Africa – are estimated to be homosexual.

  • Sexuality is not linked to the way parents bring up their children and sexual orientation cannot be “acquired” through the people with whom you associate.
  • Tolerance of sexual orientation was found to positively impact societies’ public health, civil society and long-term economic growth, and repression was found to negatively affect the general population’s health.
  • Repressive laws pertaining to sexual orientation cause major harm to public health systems and the population’s health through lack of access to healthcare for homosexuals, lack of information, particularly in the areas of HIV, TB and STI, and result in mental health problems for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals because of the stigma and repression that they experience.
  • People are not homosexual because of childhood sexual abuse.
  • Same-sex orientation cannot be changed through “reparative” or “conversion” therapy.

“We wanted a rational approach to this very irrational response [by African governments] to gender and sexual diversity,” Dr Glenda Gray told the Mail & Guardian ahead of the report’s release at the 7th South Africa Aids Conference in Durban [on June 10]. …

“[The aim] was to unequivocally make the statement that gender and sexual diversity [are] a normal variant of life,” said Gray, who is the head of the Medical Research Council and on the consensus panel. “We realised that it has to come from Africa and African scientists have to be involved in it, otherwise it will be rejected as something from the ‘West’.”

Sylvia Tamale (Photo courtesy of african.cam.ac.uk)

Sylvia Tamale (Photo courtesy of african.cam.ac.uk)

But the fact that this report originates in South Africa – despite the endorsement by Unas – means that it is likely to be ignored by politicians in Uganda, and possibly other policymakers on the continent. Dr Sylvia Tamale, a prominent academic and founder of the Law, Gender and Sexuality Research Project in Uganda, says: “I highly doubt that it will influence policymakers. The fact that it was developed by Assaf is also significant as it’ll give policymakers the usual excuse to dismiss it as a report influenced by whites,” Tamale says. …

Despite the likelihood that this report will be rejected by Ugandan policymakers, Tamale says that although government media houses have a “standing blackout policy of not covering news on homosexuality”, she expects other media houses in the country will pick up on the report.

Also, she believes that an important way to improve these marginalised people’s livelihoods is “using judicial means through the filing of public interest litigation cases addressing discrimination, inequality and criminalisation.”

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